Aftereffects List #31

31. Limited tolerance for happiness; active withdrawal from/ reluctance to trust happiness (“ice = thin”).

Yes. I am not sure how much depression played a part in this, but since the depression was directly caused by the childhood abuse, I guess it is all about the abuse aftereffects.

For most of my life, even when I was living in my fantasy life, happiness ended in failure, loss, grief, abuse. I see how that pattern was set up in my life.

If I was happy my mother would pick me up and abuse me. My happiness got her attention. I was never happy afterwards. She always managed to rob me of everything. I learned how to hide my emotions. I learned how to be invisible. I learned how to run away from happiness.

I was so conditioned, so brainwashed by abuse that I could not trust happiness because it would lead to abuse, that I could not trust happiness because it would end, and that I could not trust happiness because it would not be real, it would be a lie put forth by someone who wanted to use and exploit me.

In my healing life now I am working very hard on embracing happiness, finding bliss, making a life of my own that includes friends and family that love me. Slowly I am making my life. And happiness is there.

Aftereffects List #30

30. Desire to change one’s name (to disassociate from the perpetrator or to take control through self-labeling).

Yes. I’ve always hated my first name. It was said and often screamed out loud by my mother, the abuser. It was used by those who abused me in the ritual abuse group. I loathe it and when I got into therapy I started using a nickname.

Now I use a nickname for everything but my legal stuff. But I plan on changing it legally. I am still conflicted about the name that I use.

It was given to me as a child by someone who loved me and abused me. It is a name that those who loved me as a child used. It is the name that people who love me now use. It has never been used by my family of origin. I’m still thinking about it.

I probably will keep using this nickname and change it so that it is legal. It is really the only name that I want to keep for the rest of my life. It is me. I am Kate.

Aftereffects List #29

29. Avoidance of mirrors (connected with invisibility, shame/self-esteem issues; distorted perceptions of face or body).

Yes. I do think that at one time I had body dysmorphic disorder and that many survivors have this disorder as well.

When I looked in the mirror, looked at pictures of myself, and saw others looking at me I saw ugliness. I know that I was systematically trained to believe that. But I wonder how much of that was the sexual abuse and how much was the programming by the verbal abuse and shunning, and by being told all the time I was a pre-schooler that I was ugly by my mother.

I was treated by my family like I was invisible. Except when they wanted to abuse me. I was treated by classmates like I was invisible. Except when they wanted to abuse me. I don’t think that I wanted to be invisible. I just felt as though I was. 

I still feel a lot of shame and judgment when others are looking at me. It takes a lot of work to not feel bad about my body, myself, my looks.

I can look at the photos of myself as a child and see a pretty girl. It took a lot of healing to get to that point. I feel so grateful that I can see my childhood beauty. 

I wish that even one person in my family or at school had mirrored that back to me. Just once. I wonder if I would have believed them. I wonder how much it could have helped.

I remember one incident in my teenage years when my sister said something nice to me about my looks. She said that I had pretty eyes.

Two other times she had given me a gift that said something in it about being pretty. One was a small mirror with a phrase on it. I think it said something like hello there pretty girl. Another time was when she gave me a small Peanuts book with the dedication at the front of the book where she had written, “to a pretty girl who is like a melody.” In the little book Lucy asked Linus, do you think a pretty girl is like a melody? Both times I thought she was making fun of me and pointing out how ugly I was. It was the kind of thing she would do.

She never told me I was pretty to my face, not once in my whole life. Neither of my parents either. I think that they should have. It would have mattered to me. Even if it was a lie, it would have mattered. It wasn’t a lie.

Aftereffects List #28

28. Pattern of ambivalent or intensely conflictual relationships (in true intimacy, issues are more likely to surface; in problem relationships, focus can be shifted from real issue of incest). Note: Partner of survivor often suffers consequences of Post-Incest Syndrome also (especially sex and relationship issues).

Yes. I’ve often wished for a drama-free life. I didn’t really have that until I stopped seeing the more egregious and most abusive family members about four years ago. Then I could see clearer how family of origin caused most of the drama and emotional pain in my life.

Still some of the ones I still associate with trigger me, upset me, hurt my feelings, invalidate, and don’t really have time for me. It is, unfortunately, always a balancing act.

I was in a horrifically abusive relationship. Since then I steer away from most men after knowing them for a few hours. They are just not functional enough to see.

I am trying to heal from all of this. I have my friends that I have met  over the years at online survivor message boards. I have new blogger friends I have found since starting my blog.

I find that I can work on some of the relationship issues with both of these types of friends and that what I get is a lot of healing. But I wonder if I will ever feel or be competent at dealing with relationships. I will try to just keep working at it. It is a process, a path, a journey.

Aftereffects List #27

27. Sexual issues: sex feels dirty; aversion to being touched, especially in GYN exam; strong aversion to (or need for) particular sex acts; feeling betrayed by one’s body; trouble integrating sexuality and emotionality; confusion or overlapping of affection/ sex/ dominance/aggression/violence; having to pursue power in sexual arena which is actually sexual acting out (self-abuse, manipulation [esp. women]; abuse of others [esp. men]); compulsively seductive, or compulsively asexual; must be sexual aggressor, or cannot be; impersonal, promiscuous sex with strangers concurrent with inability to have sex in intimate relationship (conflict between sex and caring); prostitute, stripper, sex symbol
(Marilyn Monroe), porn actress; sexual acting out to meet anger or revenge needs; sexual addiction; avoidance; shutdown; crying after orgasm; all pursuit feels like violation; sexualizing of all meaningful relationships; erotic response to abuse or anger, sexual fantasies of dominance/ real rape (results in guilt and confusion); teenage pregnancy.

Note: Homosexuality is not an aftereffect!

Yes. And yes I have seen this so much with other survivors. I really don’t see how it is possible to survive a childhood with child sexual abuse in it and not have to deal with many sexual issues.

I have an aversion to being touched. Always have. I love to be touched and hugged by people that I consider safe. It might take me a while to get used to someone before I consider them safe.

It took me a long time to get to it, but yes eventually I have felt as though my body has betrayed me. I am still trying to deal with that and convince myself of the truth. Abusers betrayed me. My body didn’t.

All pursuit feels like violation. Yes. Culturally men pursue. I don’t like this at all. It is a big trigger. It has made me physically sick to be pursued like that. It is so disgusting to me.

I have been a celibate for a really long time. That is a combination of being abused and the kind of men who come into my life, which is also influenced by my abuse history and my level of healing. After being in one bad abusive relationship I promised myself that I would not have another. It is easy to say no to that kind of man.

Aftereffects List #26

26. Denial: no awareness at all; repression of memories; pretending; minimizing (it wasn’t that bad); having dreams or memories (maybe it’s my imagination) (these are actually flashbacks, which is how recall begins); strong, deep, inappropriate negative reactions to a person, place or event; sensory flashes (a light, a place, a physical feeling) without any sense of their meaning; remembering surroundings but not the event. Memory may start with the least threatening event or perpetrator. Actual details of abuse may never be fully remembered; however, much recovery is possible without complete recall. Your inner guide will release memories at the pace you can handle.

This list item is more like a description of denial, repression, flashbacks, and how memories of abuse re-emerge than a mere listing of a few issues.

I had never forgotten some abuse that my oldest brother had done to me. I thought that was all that I was dealing with. I was in so much pain and had so many health issues I could not work for six months and that is what drove me into therapy. I don’t think that I ever would have done that without such an obvious sign that I needed help.

Unfortunately I went to a clinic and they suggested a male therapist, who knew a lot about relaxation, cognitive behavior techniques etc that they thought could help me with addressing the outer symptoms of what I was dealing with. I had mentioned a history of child sexual abuse and that I did not want to see a male therapist. They talked me into seeing one. So I was derailed on addressing any child sexual abuse for over a year when I went to another clinic and presented with the same issues.

What followed was a series of disclosures to myself through flashbacks, with the easiest to deal with, accept, cope, and heal from emerging first. Looking back I think how affected I was by my flashbacks, how much they wiped me out for weeks, how little equipped I felt to cope with them or to do any meaningful healing. And how easy they were by comparison to remembering and healing from ritual abuse and mother daughter sexual abuse.

I am so glad that I did not know what trajectory my healing process would need to take at that time.  I would have been wholly unprepared to deal with it all. I do recall how I thought it would be great if I could just remember it all and get it over with. Now I appreciate the denial that allowed me to remember, heal, and grow through a longer time span.

I remember back then how so many other survivors were hoping that their healings would be over and done with in six months. The first female therapist that I saw actually thought that I should be done in six months. I told her that is a fantasy. I didn’t realize that some therapist actually say such drivel to their clients and stopped seeing her.

I thought that it was totally appropriate and normal for me to minimize my life of abuse. After all there was so much of it that I did not even remember yet. But not a professional therapist who was recommended to me who was knowledgable about trauma psychology. Oh and she had only wanted to see me once every three weeks, so I was already looking for a new therapist before she told me in my fifth month that we should stop after two more appointments.

I still have over-reactions and triggers to certain things. I know those are clues. They are always right. I always figure them out in time. The remembering process has lessened the full impact of those reactions and triggers. But I would not say that they are a thing of the past.

Remembering the mother daughter sexual abuse has allowed me to let go of so much self-hatred. My mother and my family had always treated me as though I was defective, deep in my character, my personality, my soul and that I was born that way. Remembering allows me to see the truth, she did this to me. I know the truth now and nothing will ever be the same.

Aftereffects List #25

25. Feeling crazy; feeling different; feeling oneself to be unreal and everyone else to be real, or vice versa; creating fantasy worlds, relationships, or identities (esp. for women: imagining/wishing self to be male, i.e. not a victim).

I always knew that I was different. No one in my family was like me. No one I knew was like me. I was an incredibly smart child, very precocious, who knew how to hide all of that from my family of origin. The abuse made me believe that I was not just different, but unloveable, ugly, unwanted.

My mother constantly accused me of being crazy and that she would have me locked into a mental institution, from the time I was a preschooler. I believe that is a part of the sexual abuse that she used to keep me quiet, scared out of mind, and more vulnerable to abuse. She recruited all my siblings into emotionally and verbally abusing me, causing me to have no support, no love, no companion. Causing me to feel even more crazy.

About twenty-five years ago I started connecting these concepts of crazy with the consequences and aftermath of child sexual abuse. I talked about this at length in therapy. I think it is very ironic that at the point of discovering that I was DID/multiple I no longer believed that I was crazy or feared that I would become “crazy” by working on healing.

I used to live most of my life in a fantasy world. It was hard to keep my mind in this life. It was hard to tolerate the life that I had, so I made up a life for myself that was happier. Often I would imagine myself with friends, loved ones, family, connection, creative expressions that were acknowledged, valuable work; none of which  I had in my life.

This life was not worth living. This life was too much pain and too much abuse and too much damage. Bit by bit I was able to focus more on my life, on being good to myself, on working on healing, on working on having less body pain and more healing there as well, on doing the small and happy things that make my life worth living, on living here, right here in this moment and feeling and being.  It is a good thing. It is a good life. It will be better. It will be what I can make it.